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I recently got an email from Stephanie, a graduating social work student:
I stumbled upon your Instagram today and was pleased to see that you are a social worker who currently resides in New York City; I graduate with my MSW in August and plan on moving to New York City from Florida, thereafter. Living and working in New York has always been a dream of mine. In preparation for graduation I’ve been doing some online job searching, but most positions that offer a viable wage require that you are licensed. My passion is working with children, families and women.
What advice would you give to a new social worker looking to move to New York City who isn’t licensed and wishes to work with children and families or women? Are there any specific agencies you would recommend applying to?
Stephanie’s question is interesting because it encompasses many factors, of which I’ve come up with several questions that I hope can guide Stephanie (and you) in thinking more about the next steps in living as a a social worker in New York City:
What is your ideal social work role?
This question can be answered based on where you are currently (education-wise) as a social worker. Do you plan to work as a micro level social worker, mezzo level social worker, or macro level social worker? Do you plan to work at one level for your entire social work career, or do you have expectations of moving up or blending different levels of social work? If you’re interested in working with women, youth, and families, what does that mean? Reproductive or maternal health? Crisis management and prevention? Substance use? Mental illness?
How are you looking for social work positions?
This question ties into the first question. Stephanie mentions women, children, and families as potential populations she wants to work with. In addition to identifying if you want to work at the micro, mezzo, or macro level, are you looking for counseling positions versus case management, teaching versus facilitating workshops, etc?. I was able to land a case management position within 3 months of graduating, working directly with adults impacted by HIV/AIDS and homelessness. As social workers, we’re conditioned to look for positions that explicitly have “social worker” in the title when there are plenty of organizations and agencies that recommend having the skills of a social worker but it may not be mentioned in the position requirements. I had lots of experience in conducting workshops around youth engagement, sexual/reproductive health and justice, and the like prior to grad school, but felt that I needed something that mentioned “social work” or “case management” in the title. If you find a position that interests you but doesn’t mention “social worker”, highlight in your cover letter and interview how being a social worker lends itself well to that position. The MSW degree is one of the most flexible degrees out there, and the skills we learn can translate to a variety of roles.